fMRI Lie Detection: Good Reasons to be Skeptical

Jarryd Bartle's Blog

Can a brain scanner allow us to detect if someone is lying?

In the mid-2000s, a wave of articles were published in both neuroscientific and legal journals on a new application of a (relatively new) neuroimaging technique. Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging or ‘fMRI’ is a technique which allows real time monitoring of blood flow and metabolism in the brain: a strong correlate for locating brain activity. It was (and is) a vital tool in identifying behaviours and perceptions within structures of the brain.

In the early days of ‘neuro hype‘ fMRI was promoted (at times ad naseumas a revolutionary tool that investigators and court rooms could one day use to detect if an offender is lying. Older techniques for lie detection, such as the polygraph, have proven to be woefully inadequate, provoking a need for a more scientifically sound method.

Unfortunately, the days of a scientifically robust lie detection…

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FC Round Up – The Case Against Snowden, DNA Tech Out of Date? and Hack, Hack and Hack

Hey hey! Remember me? No? I finished a law degree, so here is hoping I can post more stuff on here.  As a sign of good faith, here is a collection of interesting web bits:


Gathering Evidence ‘In The Cloud’

The use of cloud-systems for data storage carries with it some unique challenges for law enforcement. Attempts to investigate and gather evidence for digital crimes – particularly content offences like child pornography, raise several issues of jurisdiction, privacy and digital rights. Many challenges include:

  • Locating data – which could be across several jurisdictions and may be ‘dynamically’ stored across several servers in different locations. 
  • Separating data – as many cloud systems run VM-Ware in order to store multiple confidential accounts on one machine, gaining access to just one of these accounts without exposing confidential material of innocent users and possibly conducting an illegal search in the process.
  • Not pissing off Cloud Providers – who have an incentive to keep their servers running 24/7 and will avoid any negotiation with investigators which may result in their servers being seized or their operations interfered with.
  • Not pissing off consumers – who love privacy, although also do not read terms and conditions very often.

ArsTechnica has an interesting article on how cloud services contractor  Verizona has used a contract-out method to scan for and determine content offences on its servers. The provider began this technique in response to the PROTECT Our Children Act of 2008 which mandated that service providers report suspected child pornography. The provider uses a combination of “PhotoDNA”  technology supplied by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and  third-party to scan uploaded content.   Once collected, the provider is required to hand over evidence to law enforcement.

Neurolaw News

A collection of snippets from the inter webs on NeuroLaw:

For those interested in the topic of NeuroLaw I recommend David Eaglemont’s Initiative on Neuroscience and the Law as well as to check out the posts on the topic over at my old blog.

Health, Medicine and Bioethics News: Gene Patents, HIV testing and Forcing Parents to Vaccinate their Kids

So, I’m thinking of starting a separate blog devoted entirely to health law, medicine and bioethics – but until then here are some news bits from the cyberspace:

  • An Australian Federal Court has upheld a patent on the BRCA1 gene  linked to breast cancer. Despite Australia having laws against patenting naturally occurring processes., the court took the view that the isolation of the BRCA1 gene was a process of manufacture.   This is of considerable concern to researchers in the medical community.
  • For those who like reading cases (you sick bastards) here is a doozy which sprung from a claim by the partner of a man who tested positive for HIV, who later ended up contracting the virus. The actual claim by the partner against the doctors who conducted the original tests settled out of court, but fall out led to several cross-claims and disputes about degree of liability (case name: Idameneo (No 123) Pty Ltd v Dr Colin Gross [2012] NSWCA 423).


  • Another interesting case from last year is  Kingsford & Kingsford [2012] FamCA 889 – which determined whether the Family Court could order a mother to vaccinate her child. 

Sexy Webcam Scams

ZDNet has an interesting article on the blackmailing of Singaporean males by “women” in foreign countries who take photos or record the men masturbating / being other wise embarrassing during webcam sex.

This kind of scam is not at all rare, and would appear at least from my observation to be on the rise. There was an Australian case last year of man using a fake recording of a woman to force web cam using males on the other line to perform sexual acts – then he would threaten to use the recording if payment was not made (link on the way).

Countries Beef Up Their Cyber Security Creds: Japan, US, Australia

All courtesy of ZDNet:

  • US President Barack Obama signed an executed order yesterday, hinted in his State of the Union address, to crack down on cybercrime. Although, not everyone is convinced.
  • The Japanese Police Agency plans to compile a handbook on cybercrime investigations and create more specialist staff position. This follow their enactment of the Convention on Cybercrime last year.